The 2020 ASCA Award Committee, consisting of Julian Isenia, Patricia Pisters and meLê Yamomo, gave the ASCA Dissertation Award to Natasha Basu for her dissertation: "Is this Civil? Transnationalism, Migration and Feminism in Civil Disobedience" (supervised by Robin Celikates and Beate Roessler). There was also a special mention fro Florian Gottke's thesis: "Burning Images. Performing Effigies as Political Protest" (supervised by Frank van Vree and Mia Lerm-Hayes)
Natasha Basu’s dissertation offers a revision of the concept of civil disobedience by rethinking the notion of the ‘civil’ in light of several classic and current cases of civil disobedience. Both in terms of the extreme topicality of the dissertation’s case studies and in terms of the well-structured and well-argued presentation of the interdisciplinary theoretical observations the thesis offers a remarkable contribution to current transnational political debates by demonstrating the potential of civil disobedience to both defy and contest institutional systems and simultaneously create spaces for new ways of being in political democracies.
Opening with the student occupations of the University of Amsterdam in 2015 and later on in her work in particular addressing Black Lives Matter and feminist collectives in Russia (Pussy Riot), India (Seed and Water Sadyagraha) and Kenya (Umoja Village), Natasha Basu sets out by rereading the classic philosophical works on civil disobedience by Rawls, Habermas and Arendt. Instead of thinking about civil disobedience in a hypothetical nearly just society, she proposes to rethink civil disobedience as grounded in societies that are characterized by forms of structural violence. She returns to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement and to Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Independence movement and the lessons from these historical acts of civil disobedience. Combining migration, postcolonial, critical race and feminist theories, she challenges assumptions about what civil disobedience is and what it can be, including groups that often have been excluded from the civil, such as women in oppressive patriarchal societies, migrants such as the ‘sans papiers’ in France, people of color and people from former colonies. Her work offers an important contribution in contemporary debates about the potential that civil disobedience offers to increase democratic participation in a globalized context. The committee was unanimous in selecting Natasha Basu’s work as this year’s winner and wants to congratulate her with the accomplishment of an important work.
The committee wants to say that the quality of the PHD dissertations we have read in general was very high. Therefore, we decided that besides the winner of this year’s Dissertation Award, we also want to give a Special Mention to one of the theses. The ASCA Award 2020 committee wants to give a SPECIAL MENTION to the remarkable dissertation by Florian Gottke, Burning Images. Performing Effigies as Political Protest (supervised by Frank van Vree and Mia Lerm-Hayes)
As an artist-scholar Florian Gottke highlights an understudied phenomenon in global visual culture, namely the theatrical performance of burning dolls or dummies in the contexts of political protests. As images that circulate in news media, archives and online platforms, they are an important form of protest that communicate communal outrage over experienced injustice. As a method Florian Gottke has not only studied and analyzed these images theoretically but also arranged them into clustered image-assemblages that are presented alongside his textual observations, emphasizing in this way the relation between the visible and the legible. Case studies include the use of effigies in the history of the US as well as in Anti-America demonstrations in Egypt, Afganistan and Iraq and during the Arab Spring. The dissertation convincingly demonstrates the significance and visceral affectivity of these performances and political images that emanate both violence and laughter. As such they are an indicator of injustice and violence and a symptom of fundamental national and international conflicts. The dissertation deserves to be widely read and the committee is pleased to read that a publisher for the book has already been found.